National Security Supply Chain Institute

The U.S. and its allies require robust supply chains less susceptible to risk. Strategic competitors aim to dominate key areas of production. A RAND initiative offers a more complete understanding.

A U.S. Naval Air Crewman lowers a litter onto the deck of a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden

A U.S. naval air crewman lowers a litter onto the deck of a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden

Photo by Logan C. Kellums/U.S. Navy

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House invoked the Defense Production Act to repurpose U.S. factories to produce ventilators. But factory capacity was not the major issue. The problem was the lack of components, sourced from more than fourteen different countries. This is only the most-recent example where complexity in the globalized supply chain potentially put U.S. lives and national security at risk. The RAND National Security Supply Chain Institute is an initiative meant to help understand and mitigate these risks.

Research Focus

U.S. decisionmakers and allied leaders want to ensure that their supply chains:

  • Provide access to technology and materials to field systems capable of fulfilling a nation's obligations
  • Are responsive to sovereign demands for medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, energy, and commodities
  • Respect intellectual property, and are free from coercion and manipulation

Vulnerabilities in the supply chains did not develop from market forces alone. Government actions are responsible for some of the risks we currently see. Other supply chain research organizations focus on logistics and transportation, not national security. This Institute focuses on ways to alter chains in order to mitigate risks to national security.

China: A Unique Actor

The Institute is interested in potential disruptions to the global supply chain. Because of current events, this has recently meant a special focus on China. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imperatives drive China's global supply chain behavior. CCP manipulates supply chains to serve its political interests, regardless of what the market might generate.

Specific actions by China have threatened to dominate key areas of production. China supplies significant portions of components and commodities that are deemed critical:

  • Organic chemicals
  • Technology
  • Exotic metals

Efforts to decouple U.S. and Chinese supply chains will likely have significant impact on the economies, labor markets, environment and national security of the United States and its allies.

What Does the Institute Do?

Near Term

The Institute is already working to identify immediate threats to national security, and assess the scope of the challenge to U.S. and allied national power.

Longer Term

Future research overseen by the Institute will assess potential public and private sector decisions to create robust supply chains.

Goals of this research will be to:

  • Identify ways to retain benefits of global competition while minimizing China's threat
  • Identify structures and behaviors that private sector could implement to resist Chinese supply chain manipulations

Organization and Contact

Bradley Martin is the director of the RAND National Security Supply Chain Institute.

The Institute is a RAND initiative housed in RAND's National Security Research Division (NSRD), which is directed by Jack Riley.

For questions about RAND's supply chain research, or to participate in the Institute's work, contact Bradley Martin.